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The Business Magazine July 2024
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Signs of optimism in county's tourism economy, says Experience Oxfordshire

The Business Magazine article image for: Signs of optimism in county's tourism economy, says Experience Oxfordshire

Trading conditions for businesses in Oxfordshire's tourism economy have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels but there are signs of improvement, according to the results of two surveys by the county's destination management organisation Experience Oxfordshire.

Almost two-thirds of businesses who responded to the Business Survey 2022 said that their trading for 2021 was worse than in 2019, but depending on the type of business, there were signs of positive recovery with 24 per cent of respondents saying that trading for the end of 2021 was better than expected.

The picture across the industry is very mixed. As they look ahead, almost three in five still expect their business performance to be below 2019 levels, but others are optimistic with 31 per cent expecting their business performance for 2022 to be better than 2019.

Staffing, both in recruitment and retention were stated as significant issues for businesses and shifting consumer behaviours within the domestic market towards shorter, more frequent breaks were requiring businesses to change their operating practices.

Asked what interventions would help their recovery, operators called for more marketing and communications to domestic audiences; continuation of government grants; a suspension or reduction of business rates; and action and investment to attract more visitors.

Overwhelmingly positive views were expressed by the enthusiastic respondents to the Consumer Survey. Eight out of ten respondents find Oxfordshire appealing as a leisure destination and almost nine out of ten respondents would consider visiting Oxfordshire in the future.

Eighty-five percent of respondents associated Oxfordshire with history and heritage, 75 per cent with museums and galleries and 64 per cent with arts and culture.

Over half commented on the attractiveness of the countryside just under a third attributed walking, cycling, the range of gardens and gourmet pubs and restaurants, with the county.

A quarter said it was easy to get to and recognised it as a destination for shopping, events, and festivals. The city of Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, Woodstock, and Bicester were the area’s most respondents had previously visited.

Amongst those who had previously considered Oxfordshire for a holiday, Covid was cited as the main reason for not but not making the trip, but now that travel restrictions are no longer in place most respondents felt sufficiently confident to travel.

Most respondents live in the southeast region, followed by southwest, London and West Midlands with seven out of ten living within a two-hour drive time from Oxfordshire.

Two in five claim to visit several times a year, and a third to visit once or twice a year. With day trips making up over half of all visits taken by respondents (midweek day trips accounting for a third of all visits) and short breaks (including short and long weekend breaks as well as mid-week breaks) accounting for a third of all visits, Oxfordshire has a strong customer base on which to build back its visitor economy.

Commenting on the results of the surveys, Experience Oxfordshire’s CEO, Hayley Beer-Gamage said: “The surveys have produced extremely useful insights which Experience Oxfordshire will use in its work supporting the county’s visitor economy.

"Our Economic Impact Report 2020 showed the staggering effect, and consequent decline, that the pandemic had on tourism in Oxfordshire. T

"hese recent surveys show how, as we build back the visitor economy, there is real interest from visitors in spending time in Oxfordshire, but business still has challenges to face and therefore recovery across the sector is likely to be uneven. Support for, and intervention on behalf of, the visitor economy remains essential.

"Experience Oxfordshire will be working hard to ensure that the county is top of mind amongst those planning to take short-breaks and day trips. It’s heartening to see from the Consumer Survey, that amongst potential visitors, Oxfordshire retains its place as an attractive and desirable destination to visit.”

 


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Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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